CHRISTIANA, Tenn. (WKRN) – Less than an hour outside of Nashville, you’ll find a safe haven for animals and humans alike, all in the hopes of creating a more kind world for those who call it home. 

In Rutherford County, the Gentle Barn is a place where animals and humans speak the same language of love, care, and compassion. 

“At the Gentle Barn, it’s a view into a magical world of animals, where you can see their friendships, their intelligence, their affection, you can see that they clearly know their names,” said Ellie Laks, co-founder of the Gentle Barn.

According to Laks, creating an animal sanctuary like this has been a dream since she was seven years old.  

“I noticed that the people around me didn’t see animals quite the same way I did and that troubled me,” Laks explained. “So since the time I was seven, I would tell everyone that when I grow up, I’m going to have a big place full of animals and show the world how beautiful they are.”

All these years later, the Gentle Barn is home to horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, peacock, and lamas, all available for people to develop a deeper connection to.

Laks said she hopes to take care of the animals the same way they took care of her as a child. 

“They’re here not only to be healed and loved at the Gentle Barn, but then to pay it forward, but by healing people that come to the Gentle Barn looking for hope,” said Laks.

The Gentle Barn differs from a traditional zoo because of the interactive experience the sanctuary offers, according to Laks.

“People can hug cows, cuddle turkeys, give pigs tummy rubs, hold the chickens, pet the goats and sheep, look into their eyes, hear their stories of resilience, and learn from them,” Laks said.

Through these encounters, Laks believes animals can teach humans important character traits like courage and forgiveness in return. 

“So there’s a healing circle that happens at the Gentle Barn, where we heal the animals, the animals heal other people, and those people turn around and be kinder to animals,” said Laks.

One of those healing circles is called “Cow Hug Therapy”.

Laks said this provides a hands on experience for someone who might be battling depression, anxiety, or family struggles as one of the cows at the Gentle Barn, Maybell, has navigated those circumstances herself. 

“It’s a beautiful reminder that animals love their families just like we do, and she gets to show people that have been separated from their family that there’s always hope to reunite with their families of origin or create families of their own when their older,” Laks explained.

The barn is open for visitors every Sunday and offers private tours and birthday parties.